Matthew 25:24-25
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’
Let me start by commenting on the book of Proverbs. The reading today is from the last chapter of the book. There are thirty-one chapters to the book of Proverbs. Many years ago, I started reading one chapter a day. With the number of days of the month being thirty-one quite often, it meant I was able to read the entire book of Proverbs in a month by reading a chapter a day. It was a good way to learn that book. This is just a suggestion for your own spiritual reading.
Now, I want to do another “what if” from the gospel story today. What if the guy who had been given only one talent tried to invest it, but lost it? If he showed genuine effort on his part, would his master have been upset at him for losing? I do not think so.
Instead, I think he would have tried to teach this individual who lost the money by having him work under the guy who made the most money. By doing this, hopefully, the guy would learn how to make money himself. That way he would not be a failure, but just someone who had to learn.
The lesson here is very simple, really. I do not think God is upset if we fail at times. But what he wants of us is honest and consistent effort toward holiness. The man who buried his money buried what his master had given him. So the question comes back to us – each of us – have we buried what God has given us?
This may sound like a harsh challenge, but I believe it is appropriate. What have you done for the sake of the kingdom of God? It is NEVER enough to just say that I am baptized, I go to church, I pray every day, I give some money to the church… Blah blah blah. In another place, Jesus warns that doing these required things means we are “unprofitable servants”.
The founder of the Institute of priests that I belong to had a very simple two word way of describing how we are called to live. He did not apply this only to priests, but to everyone who was involved in the Family of Apostolic Maximalism. And there are the two words: Apostolic Maximalism.
We may not always be successful in trying to push ourselves as hard as possible for the sake of the gospel. But we are called to do… exactly… that. And, it seems to me, in this day we are called ever more urgently to make our commitment to the gospel known to the world.
It cannot be just about how holy we seem to be. It must be about our care for leading others to Christ. If we are living a holy life, we will be caring about those who are not living a holy life. And this is the true challenge of the modern Christian life.
St. Paul says in the reading today: “We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” Some people want to make this reading seem as though it is a declaration that the end of time is close.
While this is the next to the last weekend of the church year – and that is why this reading is here – the church is asking us to think about the end of time, the end of things, the end of life. After all, at the very BEGINNING of this month we had the feast day of All Souls.
We are called not just to think of the end of time, but the end of every life, as well as the beginning of every life; we are called to think of everything in between as well. This is the call to holiness that Jesus consistently calls us to.
St. Paul is not telling us that we should not sleep – ever. The human body cannot survive without sleep. So he is not just talking about a physical sleep. He is talking about the need for us to be ready for the work of the kingdom. The third servant from the gospel ignored the call to work for the kingdom. He paid a price for that! Please do not be willing to pay that same price.
Do not think that baptism is enough. That kind of attitude is burying what God has given you.
Now is the time. Now is the time for us as God’s people to stand up to a culture that wants to live in darkness. Now is the time for us to declare emphatically the call to holiness. Now is the time for us to live to a maximum level the requirements of the gospel. It is no longer enough to just say “I have done my duty – I went to Mass – I gave to the church – I did such and such.”
No. It is time for us each to ask a very important question: “What do you need me to do today, Lord?” The urgency of Paul’s writing to the Thessalonians was as important in his day as it is and ours. He wrote of the darkness that was overwhelming the society of his day. And Christianity did overcome that darkness for centuries.
But now the darkness seems to have grown again, though it can never overcome the light of truth, the work of the church. It is time for us to not hide the talents God has given us, but to use them for the good of the kingdom – even if we think we will fail. God needs us to help save the world, to save humanity. This is a call to holiness, not just some call to social work. This is a call to turn people to God, not just to make them better people. This is a call to return people to the path of sainthood.
So, we pray. Lord Jesus, you have called us to use the gifts you have given us for the greatest good of your kingdom. Help us to magnify the gifts that you have given. Help us to double, even triple, the talents you have given so that others will be drawn to the holiness of your church.
There have been many in recent years whose work has torn down the church. Help us to rebuild a society that is based on the light of the truth. Help us to rebuild the church for the sake of your glory. Help us all to live in Apostolic Maximalism so that the universal call to holiness may become a reality in our world. Make us all holy and fruitful servants, that one day we will hear you say to each of us “well done good and faithful servant, enter into your Masters joy.” Amen.